Comparative Literature

  • What is Vernacular Filmmaking?

    We will study films that address global audiences while rooted in particular, local,vernacular sources of artistic creation. In order to understand this aesthetic phenomenon of World Cinema, we will examine theories of World Literature. Especially, we will focus on Auerbach's famous book, Mimesis and his work on the formation of vernacular audiences.

  • The Gothic Tradition

    The purpose of this course is to analyze and understand the cultural meanings of the Gothic mode through a study of its characteristic elements, its historical, aesthetic, and political origins in eighteenth-century English and German culture and thought, its development across Western national traditions, and its persistence in contemporary culture, including film, electronic media, clothing, social behavior, and belief systems, as well as literature. Films, artifacts, web sites and electronic publications will supplement readings.

  • Writing, with Pictures: Logographs, Texts and the Image

    Non-alphabetic writing was once considered a primitive stage from which "proper" i.e., phonetically-based writing systems evolved, displacing such "picture writing." This course studies writing from the perspective of such "ideographic" or logographic systems and returns to the question of how writing and the image continue to interact even in putatively phonetic written contexts.

  • Intimate Geographies: Space and Place in Modern Hebrew and Arabic Literature

    What are the meanings of space and place for people in a region where geography is overwhelmingly politicized? This course will explore the fictional and autobiographical poetics of social space as expressed in literature and film from Israel and the Arab world. Although these works focus on dramas of love and loss, friendship and the family, we will also see how political conditions influence personal and collective experiences of space.

  • Topics in Literature and Philosophy: The Commodity and the Concept

    This course explores major theoretical derivations of our working concepts of the commodity and the concept, before investigating the dynamic relation between them, including: the dependence of the former on the latter, the "transformation" of the latter into the former, the asymmetry of their mutual productivity, and the production of history from their relation. Readings in economic and conceptual philosophy and literary works in which these processes are narrated.

  • Topics in Critical Theory: Comparative Literature Writing and Dissertation Colloquium

    The Writing and Dissertation Colloquium is a biweekly forum for graduate students in Comparative Literature to share works in progress with other graduate students. The seminar welcomes drafts of your prospectus, article, dissertation chapter, conference paper, exam statement and grant or fellowship proposal. Work is pre-circulated. The 90 minute sessions, done in conjunction with a rotating COM faculty member, are designed to offer written and oral feedback.

  • The Eighteenth Century in Europe

    This year's topic is "Reading Characters: Clarissa in Context." The seminar will consider the development of the modern novel during the European Enlightenment as a narrative epistemology of character, through an intensive reading of Richardson's Clarissa.

  • Zen and Language

    Zen (Mandarin Chan) Buddhism claims not to subsist in language, but to rely on a separate transmission, yet the Zen canon is huge & language (both spoken & written) plays an indispensible role in Zen practice & in its engagement with the arts of East Asia. This course studies how language is characterized in Zen's traditions, its place in religious practice and how it has engaged with and made more complex considerations about language in the visual, literary and performing arts. East Asian language proficiency is NOT required for the course.

  • Reading Is Not What You Think

    In this class for students considering majoring in Comparative Literature, we ask what happens when we read literature? How do we read? And what are the ethical questions and problems that we rehearse when we read? Is reading all about finding the reflection of myself in the text, or do we find something else? What does it mean to read a culturally different novel or poem? How might it teach us to imagine others not like ourselves?

  • Introduction to Jewish Cultures

    This introductory course focuses on the cultural syncretism and the global diversity of Jewish experience. It provides a comparative understanding of Jewish culture from antiquity to the present, examining how Jewish culture has emerged through the interaction of Jews and non-Jews, engaging a wide spectrum of cultures throughout the Jewish world, and following representations of key issues such as sexuality or the existence of God in different eras.


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